Summit Natural Gas of Maine officials said Tuesday the company has started construction of its $350 million natural gas pipeline in the Kennebec Valley.

Summit now joins competitor Maine Natural Gas, which started building its pipeline in the area last year, in the race to bring natural gas to residential, municipal and commercial users in the area.

Summit officials said in a news release late Tuesday construction has started in Madison, at the intersection of Route 43 and River Road, and crews will begin working at other locations this week.

The company has signed contracts with three construction firms to begin the project: CCB Inc., of Westbrook, Tetra Tech, of Pasadena, Calif., and Schmid Pipeline Construction Inc., of Mayville, Wis.

“We’re pleased to announce the signing of our three contractors as they commence construction on this year’s $110 million portion of our Kennebec Valley natural gas transmission and distribution system,” Mike Minkos, president of Summit Natural Gas of Maine said in a news release. “This represents the installation of 68 miles of steel pipe and 66 miles of plastic distribution pipe in various communities throughout the region, which creates an estimated 435 jobs during this construction season.”

Augusta-based Summit Natural Gas of Maine is owned by Colorado-based Summit Utilities.

Dan Hucko, spokesman for Maine Natural Gas parent company Iberdrola, USA, which also owns Central Maine Power, said construction of the firm’s competing 12-inch steel pipeline into Augusta is about 40 percent complete, with about four miles finished. He said installation of plastic distribution pipe is more than halfway complete and Maine Natural Gas’ Windsor facility where it will tap into the Maritimes and Northeast pipeline is on schedule for completion this month.

Summit officials said construction on both their steel transmission line and plastic distribution lines will start this week. Work will take place by different crews throughout the Kennebec Valley at several locations.

Maine Natural Gas’ current efforts are focused on bringing gas to Augusta, though company officials have said they will expand to more of the Kennebec Valley if it is economically feasible. Hucko said there are about 150 workers on the construction job.

Gov. Paul LePage, who previously criticized Summit for using what he described as a project labor agreement that the governor claimed would favor unions and discriminate against most Maine construction workers, commended Summit, in the news release, for using Maine workers on the project.

“I am pleased to see that so many Mainers will be put to work in good-paying jobs on these construction projects, plus more in related projects, such as excavating and paving,” LePage said in the release from Summit. “Maine is fortunate to benefit from this project, which will help lower energy costs and improve the bottom line for our state’s employers.”

Summit officials had previously announced the project would start in May. However, Michael Duguay, director of business development for Summit, said in May the firm was still finalizing its selection of contractors.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]